Pennsylvania Lawmakers Push Legislation to Fight Period Poverty

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania – State Representatives Darisha Parker and Carol Hill-Evans, along with Speaker Joanna McClinton, menstrual health professionals and Pennsylvania students, gathered Wednesday to highlight the issue of period poverty and urge the Senate to pass critical legislation . The proposed bills, HB 850 and 851, aim to make menstrual products more accessible to low-income women.

Parker and Hill-Evans drafted these bills with an eye toward addressing a pressing need. House Bill 850 seeks to amend the Human Services Code to allow participants in the SNAP or WIC programs to purchase menstrual hygiene products with their benefits. House Bill 851 proposes a grant program under the Public Schools Code of 1949 to provide schools with funds to distribute vintage products to students in need.

“We need to talk bluntly about periods,” Parker said. “No more euphemisms or hiding tampons in your sleeves to go to the bathroom.”

Parker emphasized that menstruation, a natural biological process, is still treated as a taboo topic. “It’s crazy that this beautiful, natural biological process that has the power to create life is still considered a taboo subject,” she continued. Parker highlighted that lack of access to menstrual products is not only a financial issue, but can also lead to significant health problems and perpetuate poverty.

House Bill 850 would empower women by allowing them to purchase essential period products through SNAP or WIC benefits. “Tampons and pads are not a luxury for us,” Parker said. “We don’t choose to participate in our periods every month; These are products we need to preserve our dignity and participate in all of life’s important milestones.”

House Bill 851 would establish a grant program to help schools purchase and distribute menstrual products to students. “The truth we need to convey loudly and often is that having a period is not shameful or impure, and it is not something you should feel obligated to hide,” Hill-Evans said. “When we talk about menstrual health and acceptance, we are ultimately talking about our continued fight for empowerment as women.”

Lawmakers shared personal stories to emphasize the importance of the legislation. Parker recalled her own experience when she got her first period during a school assembly without access to necessary products. “I was once that eighth-grade girl who got her first period during a school assembly,” Ella Parker said. “There were no products available to me and I want to prevent other girls from having to use paper towels, socks and even newspapers as period products.”

Period poverty, the lack of access to menstrual products due to financial limitations, affects many women and girls in Pennsylvania. This problem can lead to missed school days, health problems, and feelings of shame or shame. By addressing period poverty, these bills aim to ensure that all women and girls can manage their menstruation with dignity.

The implications of passing this legislation are significant. Providing access to menstrual products can improve school attendance rates, improve women’s health, and end stigmas associated with menstruation. Additionally, it can help women and girls participate fully in daily life, contributing to their overall empowerment and well-being.

As Parker concluded: “It’s time to empower Pennsylvania women and girls, rather than forcing them to whisper about a completely natural biological process. Let’s do this”.

The push for these bills highlights a growing recognition of menstrual health as a vital component of public health and gender equality. If passed, HB 850 and 851 could set a precedent for other states to follow, ensuring that menstruation is no longer a barrier to education, health and dignity.

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